The average adult male thinks about sex thirty-two times in the space of a minute. Thirty-two separate engagements of separate thoughts, thirty-two distinct declarations of "I wish . . .", "I'd like to . . ." and the very frequent stream-of-consciousness interruption of a simple "Damn!" Long, low mental whistles and cerebral catcalls that never make it past the lips. And the ladies don't lag behind, either, with a not-too-shabby twenty-seven. In a crowded room, a hundred thousand neurons of random desire fire within our brains almost continuously.
I know. I've counted.
It makes for good small talk at parties, that dirty fact. I sidle it into conversations full of tilted, knowing smiles until they work their way to the inevitable, coy question: "Oh? And what am I thinking now?" I lean forward, whisper the answer into their ears, and then we go: upstairs, to a cab, to my place, to his place, to the bathroom, to the alley in the back, so I can make his thoughts into hot, potent memories. Of course, I'm never wrong. It doesn't take superhuman insight to know what they're thinking and imagining. So when I get it right, they never suspect what has really happened. Does it really matter, anyway, if the sweet sex and the rough fucking, the hand just there, the speed just that way like fantasy come true, does it matter if I can grant it because I read their minds and hear their thoughts?
A long time ago it was just a talent that I used the way any average guy with a few lessons under his belt could, in a pinch, produce a quarter from behind your ear. I was surreptitiously dragged into the vicinity of straight-but-cross-your-fingers-bicurious boys and taken to meet the immaculately metrosexual, too-caring-to-be-straight husband hopefuls. Like the main attraction in a traveling circus show: come see Brent and his A-mazing G-aydar! Long before I started listening to that low hum always at my temples, I just knew by gut instinct from the pit of my stomach that he could be, but not him, that he wasn't of the sweet persuasion, but that one, over there, I don't care how straight he looks, he wants to get you alone. And I was always right. It was a good little magic trick. Until it stopped being just sleight of hand and the magic became real.
It's odd and somehow fitting, I think, that I discovered my power not among men, but with a woman. Mariko- my sweet hag, my childhood best friend, by my estimations an honorary fag despite the pussy- would of course be the mind I first heard. We're just too close to not spill over into the eerie unspoken bond like twins have. Well, that and the fact that what I heard that fateful day, what my twisted gut confirmed, was completely outside of everything I knew about myself. I sat with Mariko on her beanbag chair like we always did Saturday evenings, watching Audrey Hepburn be professionally elegant and charming and realized, with a stab of shock, that I was thinking about kissing Audrey Hepburn.
Correction: I wasn't thinking about kissing her. I didn't imagine my lips on hers, or see us kiss from an outside perspective. That would have been quite a shock to my confirmed status as a never-truly-closeted, cock-worshipping fag. Instead, the idea settled in my mind, and it had to do with kissing, and attraction, and the pretty starlet on the screen. The same way that I felt the presence of certain concepts around men I ID'd as gay: penetration, muscle, power, hardness, forbidden. But I'd never felt the heavy weight of these words about women, the shapes melting and shifting in the space around me. Softness. Sensuous. Lipstick. Those foreign, unwelcome creatures harangued me while I failed to focus on the movie and imagine romance between Henry Higgins and Mr. Pickering. So I said something aloud, just to stop the buzzing silence that kept getting weightier and more uncomfortable with all its implications.
"She sure is something, isn't she?" I quipped lightly.
Mariko smacked me hard on the arm excitedly. "Get out of my head!" She squealed. And then, no slave to laws of propriety or correctness, indeed, the childhood queen of 'Too Much Information' whose mouth actually starts to speak before the formation of thoughts, she added, "I was just thinking how much I'd love to kiss her!"
And then, as I bit my lip and frowned, and we both watched Ms. Hepburn waltz in low-cut splendor, the mood changed again, more intense, more focused, about breasts and jiggling, soft, salt, pink, squeeze. One after another and together in rapid fire and I swallowed and said carefully, "Kiss her, or feel her up?"
And there it was. We never did get to know the fate of Eliza Doolittle. Instead the evening became a game of parlor tricks. "Okay, okay, wait a second, okay, now what? Huh?" came again and again. I honed my power that night, picking up on the thoughts that Mariko randomly, purposely conjured and emanated. I laughingly accused her of sexual harassment when I picked up on very obscene, dirty thoughts in her head involving her and I. I listened to the humming thread at my temples and found words- well, not words; the brain doesn't work that way- but the music I could understand, and sometimes fuzzy images superimposed on my sight. We celebrated my gift, my power, my strange ability. Only in the weeks after would I have to learn to shut it off, to filter, to shut the very eyes, ears, and, frankly, the spirit that received these thoughts. My 'amazing gaydar', we called it, because it did, indeed, work best at finding the homosexual currents that ran the length of everyone's grey matter. If I concentrated hard, I could sense other thoughts from men about women, and vice-versa, but they were slippery and quiet. Mariko remained convinced that it was due to my status as a fag.
"You can barely imagine straight sex, so no wonder you can't pick up on it." She told me, although I reminded her that I wasn't a huge fan of visualizing lesbians, either, but still I intimately now knew every drunken proclivity and bisexual fantasy of the secretaries at work.
"Yeah, well, that's even better. You're like some queer superhero!" She gushed. "Except you really can't do a whole lot, I guess." She had to add, glumly.
She was right. The extent of my powers involved getting laid, helping others get laid, and having supreme gossip power. Try as I did, there just wasn't anything non-sexual for me to sense. I couldn't read the bank security's mind to extract the code to open the vault, but I could tell you that he was fantasizing about bending teller #6 over the stacks of cash and fucking him hard the entire time I waited in line to deposit my check. I walked around with a constant hard-on. I slept with more men than I had ever had in my entire lifetime as a proud butt slut and ass hound, and I did it better, longer, sweeter, harder, and more perfectly than ever before. And when I didn't feel like sex, I acted as matchmaker, like a new automated version of the antiquated hanky code, pairing every two people who had what the other wanted. I suddenly knew my friends' desires and looked at them with new eyes, slept with a few, teased them without letting them know how I knew and lorded the information. It was fun, fun in a vapid, shallow way.
Fun and sometimes torturous, like when I realized I had no way of telling the difference between fantasies and actual memories of things that had actually happened. I accused, fought with, and lost two boyfriends to jealous accusations of cheating until I distinctly sensed George Clooney's sexual presence in my lover's mind and understood that he wasn't my six-degrees-of-separation star fucker, but just someone who fantasized about celebrities rather than our good friends (yes, friends, and not, as I formerly thought, boyfriend-stealing enemies). And even then I wondered if I wanted to know these things about my boyfriends, to feel the starts of jealousy, or even to hear the longing and hunger for things they wanted but wouldn't say, desires to enact rape fantasies or play in ways I couldn't very well just do for them without their asking. For once I started to wish that happy, monogamous couples I knew weren't always imagining themselves with the guy across the room. Everyone is so damn horny all the time, so focused on sex. Amid all the good things my gift brought me and all the bad, one question stayed at the center of it: why me?
The day I knew why was the day that Senator Fontane dropped out of the race and renounced his candidacy. It didn't feel like much, it didn't feel like anything, despite the way Mariko went on and on about it. I watched him stand behind a podium and rant and rave on C-Span about gay marriage until his face turned blue while Mariko threw popcorn at his face on the screen and begged me to change the channel. I left it on just to make sure of what I was feeling.
"He's a fucking hypocrite." I told her simply. "He's up there lying his ass off. Homosexuality is unnatural? He's a goddamn cocksucker."
She laughed in agreement. "Yeah, all those conservatives are such tight asses who just can't even get it up so they don't want anyone else to. C'mon, Brent, change the channel."
"No, Mariko, I mean he really is gay. Or wants it. Or I don't know. But I can feel it coming off of him. He's a homophobic homo. I wish to hell that I could out him right here, right now."
Then she looked at me with wide, mischievous eyes. "Well, why don't you?" She asked.
"It's Gaydar Man and his trusty sidekick, FH!" Mariko yells when she comes in and sees me putting on my special clothes.
"FH?" I ask as I button up the shirt.
"Fag Hag." She explains. "I'm working on the name, I know. By the way, when exactly do I get to come with you?"
"How about when you get some powers?" I tease her back and she rubs her temples like a charlatan psychic, rolls her eyes into her head, and moans like she's getting a vision. I tickle her until she stops.
"It's better being on the promotional end anyway. Have you given any thought to my spandex proposal?"
She simply won't be happy until I look like a comic book hero. "No, and I won't. You can stop calling me 'Gaydar Man', too. It's just not my style."
"Okay, Clark Kent. Whatever."
I smile at her and finish dressing: I cut a sleek figure in all black- shirt, tie, everything. I just don't know how brightly colored spandex and a rubber mask will give the same message. In my black, I'm somber, I'm deadly, I'm in mourning for my cause, for gay rights, for everyone who still hides in the back of their closet from the monsters I'm trying to fight. I look foreboding and menacing when I meet my targets in all black and dark shades, in their offices, on a bench outside Capital Hill, at the headquarters of the Save Marriage foundation. For some I look like a righteous angel of God come to smite, for others the professional hired to find skeletons in closets and dig up dirt, financed by the other party. Sometimes the guilt and fear turn my face into the faces they've seen in their clandestine meetings and they beg me not to tell; they'll resign, they'll stop talking, they'll support that proposition, they'll take their name off that bill. I come to them with my ultimatum and they always choose quiet, discretion, secrets.
I wonder, perhaps, if Superman ever hated his villains for not changing their ways, forcing him to challenge them, destroy them. Together, with their powers, they could change the world for the better. Sometimes I still feel that bitterness, and when I do, I go back among the normal people- the mortals, for lack of a better word- and listen. In straight bars I wait for the sensations I know so well, and when I look into the eyes of the boy who harbors them, I don't do what I used to. I don't ignore him, or write him off, or fuck him in a confusing one-night stand. I get up and talk, and listen, and I let that be enough to help him accept what is inside him.
I'm not a hero. All I want to do is make the world safe enough so that everyone can voice aloud what their minds hold, and finally know what I know.